Melbourne, June 4: 12-year-old Perth schoolboy and Tennis prodigy, Zachary Viiala represented Australia at the 2018 Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament held during the first week of French Open at Roland Garros.
Better known as Zach in tennis circles, he took on the best boys in his age group playing exceptional tennis and showed promising skills as he moves into the junior circuit as a teenager.
Zach recently won his first 14/u state level tournament in 2018, making this journey from his first state level 10/u win, when only 8 years old.
He played “Super Tens” for WA at 9 years of age, winning his first state level 12/u when 10 years old and representing WA in the School Sports Bruce Cup team in 2016 and 2017.
He then went on to win the 12/u Clay Court National Title in 2017 and then Runner Up at the 2017 National December Showdown.
Surprisingly, Zach comes from a family with no tennis background, born to father Charlie Viiala of Finnish background and mother Sharan Dogra, of Indian descent, who migrated to Australia in 1992.
Speaking to Bharat Times, proud mother Sharan said that Zach’s sporting mettle could probably find way to his maternal grandfather, who was a competition-level Hockey Player in the UK. His maternal uncle played both County Hockey and Competitive Squash in the UK.
“Zach has loved sports from a very young age and was obsessed with both tennis and cricket before the age of 3,” Sharan told Bharat Times.
Reminiscing about Zach’s childhood, Sharan remembers Zach’s early love for tennis. He “hated daycare and would hide in the car at drop-off, except for the day they had “Terry’s tiny tennis tots” incursions.
“He was introduced to mini red ball tennis by a friend around the age of 4 years old, and that’s probably when he really fell in love with this sport”, mum Sharan said.
Zach’s parents engaged John Thorpe to coach him at Dalkeith Tennis Club when Zach was only 6 years old.
“John has coached Zach to his current ability. He has become a key part of Zach’s tennis family and understands Zach very well, allowing him to tailor his coaching to continually develop Zach.
“Charlie and I cannot speak highly enough of John as a coach and person… (and) others in Zach’s coaching circle… who have all contributed to his ongoing development”.
“Zach is very lucky to have such a great team to work with…” Sharan said.
For Zach, tennis is the be-all and end-all; spending countless hours watching tennis and idolising Roger Federer and dreaming “of being a professional player himself one day”.
“He is very quiet though and very grounded in reality, fully understanding that he has a lot more development to go and a lot more hard work” – never complaining about the hours, whether the early mornings or the off court training.
Zach’s mother Sharan describes him as “quite intrinsically driven to play and train, and this makes it easy for us to support his endeavour”.
Zach’s entry to this Longines tournament was his first time travelling overseas to compete in an international competition.
In his trip Paris, Zach was joined by girl prodigy, Hana Sonton who heroically played her way into the semi-finals where she was eventually defeated by Victoria Jimenez from Spain in three sets 4–1, 1–4, 8-6; who went on to win the tournament.
Zach played a more challenging tournament drawing with tournament favourites, Japan and Italy.
While he won his second match against Poland, the competition was fierce and Zach missed out on securing a spot in the quarter finals.
Swiss tennis whiz, Kilian Feldausch went home with the 2018 Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament.
The winning players from each competition were awarded the all-important 2018 Longines Future Tennis Aces trophy and an annual bursary of $2,000 USD until their 16th birthday to go towards pursuing their tennis careers.
Zach and Hana also watched a special exhibition match with Longines Ambassadors of Elegance and tennis’ ultimate couple, Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf.
Former World No.1, Andre Agassi has 8 Grand Slam singles titles to his credit while his wife Stefanie Graf, who was also former World No.1 professional tennis great, has 22 Grand Slam singles titles.
To finish off an incredible week of competition for Australia’s representatives, Zach and Hana met Australian former tennis player Alicia Molik at Roland Garros yesterday.
Alicia provided some invaluable advice to the young tennis stars and discussed her experience playing on the professional circuit.
“I love playing tennis and playing in Paris at the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament during the French Open was the biggest event…” he said.
Longines is the Official Partner and Official Timekeeper of the French Open at Roland Garros, since 2007.